City pays millions each year in lawsuit settlements, many due to potholes

The city will have to pay a Palolo woman $25,000 after she hit a pothole while riding her bicycle. But that’s actually a small amount compared to what the city pays every year to settle lawsuits.

The easy answer would be fixing the potholes, but the problem is potholes don’t stay fixed for very long.

Sarah Porter was biking down Waialae Ave. near King St., when she quickly turned her head as a bus came close behind her. Next thing she saw was a pothole directly in her path. She hit it dead-on and flipped her bike.

“I just remember flying over the handlebars,” Porter said. “I think at some point I braced myself with my hand, with my arm, and the impact got my chin and my hand.”

Porter received 15 stitches on her chin and two of her teeth were shattered. She also fractured her elbow and a finger.

“There’s pain every day, but it’s not intense pain,” she said.

Porter sued the city and agreed on a settlement of $25.000. She told KHON2 most of that will pay her medical bills.

Honolulu City Council member Ann Kobayashi said the city spends millions of dollars every year settling lawsuits.

“It’s just a never-ending problem and it’s hard to solve,” Kobayashi said.

According to Kobayashi, settlements totaled $12 million in 2012, $7.5 million in 2013, and are projected to be $13.5 million in 2014 and $10 million in 2015.

Not all of that is related to potholes, but they are a significant problem for Oahu drivers.

The city could do a better job by “spending more for sealant for roads when you repair the pothole. Maybe it will cost more but maybe in the long run, I think we’ll save,” Kobayashi said.

The city said it is using a sealant in the slurry to pave the roads, but not using anything stronger to fix the potholes.

A city spokesperson told KHON2 the sealant only works well with smooth surfaces, so it won’t be effective on potholes.

The Dept. of Facility Maintenance said 46,470 potholes were fixed last year, and 18,804 as of May 17 this year.

The city wants the public to report those potholes by calling (808) 768-7777. The goal is to fix a pothole within 48 hours of being reported.

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